3rd Anniversary of 709 Crackdown: End Suppression of China Human Rights Lawyers
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A Global Joint Statement on the 3rd Anniversary of 709 Crackdown and China Human Rights Lawyers’ Day
July 9, 2018 marks the 3rd anniversary of the 709 Crackdown, a massive clampdown by the Chinese authorities on human rights lawyers and activists, and the 2nd anniversary of the China Human Rights Lawyers’ Day. During the past year, we have witnessed the Chinese government’s unceasing, unconstitutional and unlawful suppression of rights lawyers and civil society rights in the pretext of “ruling the country in accordance with law,” which we strongly condemn. We urge the Chinese government immediately and unconditionally to release the lawyers and activists detained in the 709 Crackdown, immediately and unconditionally to withdraw the administrative sanctions in respect of the revocation and invalidation of rights lawyers’ practice licenses, and to stop all forms of harassment, intimidation and repression of human rights lawyers.
After the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (19th Party Congress) in 2017 – China has entered a new totalitarian era of Xi Jinping’s socialism, with his personal power at its peak. With the goal of rooting out the rights defenders’ movement, the Chinese government has gone to great lengths as far as consolidating state power through constitutional amendments and repressing civil society by means of draconian laws, leading to a decline in civil society’s capacity to monitor the government. As the head of the “New Five Black Categories,” human rights lawyers will surely be the first to be cracked down on.
Updates of 709 Lawyers and Activists
In response to this era of unprecedented repression, the China Human Rights Lawyers’ Day was set up to recognize Chinese rights lawyers’ courage and determination, as well as to make known their perseverance in resisting against the oppressive regime. The 709 Crackdown and its persisting aftermath remain the major concerns of the China Human Rights Lawyers’ Day on its 2nd anniversary.
Numerous lawyers and activists involved in the crackdown were sentenced last year; several victims are still under detention. Lawyer Jiang Tianyong, who joined forces with 709 families to defend the arrested lawyers, was sentenced to 2 years’ imprisonment for “inciting subversion of state power.” Wu Gan, an active civil activist and vocal critic of the judicial system, stated in his appellate brief the people’s deserved right to overthrow an autocratic regime. Wu was charged with “subverting state power” and sentenced to a prison term of 7 years. Convicted of “inciting subversion of state power,” Lawyer Xie Yang suffered various tortures while in detention, such as beatings, “tiger chair”, sleep deprivation, etc. Since being taken away in July 2015, lawyer Wang Quanzhang has been held incommunicado and forbidden to meet his family or lawyers appointed by his family. In an open letter during the 19th Party Congress, Wang’s former defense lawyer Yu Wensheng demanded Xi Jinping’s resignation and immediate constitutional amendment, but was charged with “inciting subversion of state power” and “interference with public duties.” Yu has now been detained for 5 months. Lawyer Zhou Shifeng, former director of Fengrui Law Firm, and veteran activist elder Hu Shigen were convicted of “subverting the state power.” They are serving their respective sentences of 7 years and 7 years and 6 months; Hu is said to be suffering from deteriorating health. Under the charges of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” and fraud, Wang Yu’s defense lawyer Li Yuhan has been held in custody for over 8 months, despite her daily need of a number of drugs for her chronic diseases. Yin Xuan and Wang Fang were sentenced to 3 years and 6 months and 3 years respectively for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles,” simply because they showed support for the 709 lawyers.
The 709 Crackdown has affected no fewer than 321 persons, many of whom have been forced to confess under torture and have been deprived of the right to an open and transparent trial, while countless of others face repression merely because of their relationship with the victims, or are revenged by administrative penalty. The Chinese government’s crushing of rights lawyers and activists is not only an infringement of the country’s criminal procedure law, but also a violation of the constitution and international conventions.
Aftermath of 709 – Repression in Disguise of Administrative Punishment
Human rights lawyers are living under constant threat as suppression is being stepped up. The revision and adoption of Measures for the Administration of Law Firms and Administrative Measures for the Practice of Law by Lawyers in 2016 serve as the legal basis for the Ministry of Justice to impose administrative sanctions on lawyers. Law is no longer rights lawyers’ weapon against the autocratic government; it has been altered to provide whitewash for the regime. Since the 19th Party Congress, 16 human rights lawyers and 3 law firms have already received notification of revocation or invalidation of practice license, half of the lawyers involved are closely related to the victims of 709 Crackdown. Some of the law firms have even been forced by the Ministry of Justice to disband or to dismiss certain lawyers. Meanwhile, the notorious annual inspection system continues as a way to clamp down on human rights lawyers. By means of reviewing the types of cases lawyers have represented and lawyers’ online speech, the annual inspection system not only monitors lawyers’ conduct of practice, but also extends its grip to their personal comments and actions. The subtle measure of license revocation and invalidation has been carefully devised by the Chinese government, in order to thoroughly wipe out the human rights lawyers’ community, without provoking international rebuke. On the one hand, the revocation and invalidation of practice licenses can directly deprive lawyers of their means of livelihood, leading to a chilling effect among human rights lawyers. On the other hand, lawyers will then be deterred from taking up human rights cases, resulting in the shrinking of the rights lawyers’ community. Given the vital role of human rights lawyers in the rights defending movement, this new wave of repression through lawyers’ license revocation and invalidation will have a great impact on the sustainability of the entire movement.
It has come to our attention that the core of the “ruling the country in accordance with law” slogan proposed by the Chinese government is to systemize and institutionalize its repressive measures. We strongly condemn the Chinese government’s ceaseless suppression of and persecution of human rights lawyers, which violate the law and the constitution. We urge the Chinese government to:
1. immediately release all human rights lawyers and activists detained in the 709 Crackdown, to revoke their convictions and to uphold justice for the human rights defenders;
2. make known the condition of Wang Quanzhang, Yu Wensheng and Li Yuhan, and to guarantee their right of legal actions, and immediately and unconditionally release them;
3. immediately and unconditionally withdraw all decisions about revoking and invalidating lawyers’ licenses and other administrative punishments;
4. stop all forms of harassment and repression against the human rights lawyers’ community, to ensure that lawyers do not suffer intimidation, hindrance, inappropriate interference, prosecution and administrative sanctions for taking cases or for giving speeches in accordance with their recognized professional duties;
The Hope of Rights Defending Movement
Though the regime may seem invincible, the 709 Crackdown in fact reveals the government’s fear of the consolidation of rights defending forces and the speedy expansion of the human rights lawyers’ community. The Crackdown did not deter, but prompted the victims’ families to join the movement for the sake of their loved ones. Having protested for countless times against the judiciary bodies, Li Wenzu embarked on a 1,000-kilometer march to Tianjian to ‘look for’ her husband Wang Quanzhang; Xu Yan, wife of Yu Wensheng, exhausted all institutional means to defend her husband. Their perseverance and determination, together with the fierce international criticisms and a new generation of human rights lawyers that has emerged after the 709 Crackdown, exert immense pressure on the Chinese government. As long as we persist in our striving for justice, there is still a light of hope amidst the darkness.
26th June, 2018
中國維權律師關注組 China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group
臺灣聲援中國人權律師網絡 Taiwan Support China Human Rights Lawyers Network
[“709 Crackdown”] Latest Data and Development of Cases as of 1800 17 May 2018, https://tinyurl.com/ybmsjqqf
[A Joint Statement to Strongly Condemn the Chinese Government’s Suppression against Human Rights Lawyers through Revocation and Invalidation of Lawyers’ Licenses], https://tinyurl.com/y6uljnzu
中國維權律師關注組China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group
臺灣聲援中國人權律師網絡Taiwan Support China Human Rights Lawyers Network
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